One Dove released one full-length album in the early ’90s and earned a cult following in the electronic dance music world. Afterglow marks the first solo album from ex-One Dove vocalist Dot Allison.
With a sound that owes a lot to Beth Orton and Bjork, Allison proves she’s moving forward while staying true to her electronic roots. “Tomorrow Never Comes,” a calm, beautiful tune One Dove could never pull off, reaffirms Allison’s motivations for going solo.
Allison is accompanied by the likes of Stone Roses’ Mani, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and Burt Bacharach collaborator Hal David, but the soul of Afterglow is all Dot Allison.
The Handsome Family
In The Air
There are two types of people in this crazy world. The first type likes all kinds of music — except country. The other type thinks the only genre that matters is — you guessed it — country. The latter are the people who make up the Handsome Family and all their fans.
The Handsome Family’s fourth album, In the Air, is not ironic in the slightest. The Texas-based husband and wife duo, Brett and Rennie Sparks, record their music in their home on a computer (do they have computers in Texas?) and their songs marvel at the sadness of life. Guitar, bass, autoharp, mandolin, melodica, harmonica and percussion mix with the tender drunken voice of Brett Sparks.
Fans of Johnny Cash and Edith Frost will take kindly to the Handsome Family’s sincere country music. Everyone else will instantly plot the duo’s demise.
Evolution (and Flashback)
Gil Scott-Heron, the groundbreaking poet-turned-musician of the early ’70s, is an essential figure in American cultural history. This 15-track collection defies the tedious nature of “greatest hits” albums and introduces a new generation to Scott-Heron’s powerful work.
Classics like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” and “Whitey on the Moon” are all represented on Evolution. “Ain’t No New Thing,” which asserts “It ain’t no new thing, America is always the same old shit,” explores white people’s continual theft of black art traditions. “Get Out of the Ghetto Blues” and “No Knock” exemplify Scott-Heron’s range of subject matter, from urban life to world politics.
If you buy only one album from your four or so years of perusing Temple News’ record reviews, make it Evolution. Consider it education.
This is Your Heaven
This is Your Heaven is the sophomore album from Sonny Sixkiller, the brainchild of ex-Moped’s Kara Lafty. In Moped, Lafty shared vocal duties with Bret Tobias, who returns as guest drummer on this album. The first Sonny Sixkiller album, I’m in the Band, also divided songwriting with Matt Kelley, whose “Or Something” was an album highlight. This is Your Heaven features all Lafty-penned numbers, which somewhat hinders the album.
“Drive Away” and “One Less in the Way” are examples of where Lafty shines, but she doesn’t have enough great songs to constitute a whole album. To her credit, “Nothing’s Too Complicated,” a guitar, cello and vocals-only number, is one of the most beautiful songs of Lafty’s career.
Sonny Sixkiller has a good heart, but they need to settle on a line-up and pull some new tricks out of their power-pop hat.
Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise
Time To Discover
When a middle-aged black blues singer teamed up with four white boys
from Detroit, their union spawned a brand of surprising and unparalleled
soul. Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise lays down rocking, old-school
R&B that simultaneously conjures up images of The Black Crowes, Van
Morrisson and early ’70s Motown.
Time to Discover ranges from downright funky to silky and
soulful. Juke-joint jams such as “Uncle John,” a blistering tribute to ’60s
British blues, and “Ride” flow into the rainy Tuesday-night soul of “Ultimate
Sacrifice” and “Take Love and Receive It” without sounding choppy.
What’s most compelling about this Detroit quintet is its namesake. The
mature songwriting skills of front man Bradley makes RBBS more than just
gimmicky ear candy. Part inspirational, part autobiographical and part down
home fun; Bradley’s words are matched only by his voice, reminiscent of
Richie Havens and Marvin Gaye (if he had smoked three packs a day).
It’s time you discovered this surprise, if you haven’t already.
Discovered by Q-Tip, who later introduced her to Busta Rhymes, Rah Digga has given new meaning to the term, “female MC.” Not since MC Lyte has a female burst out on the rap scene with raw, aggressive lyrics and catchy punchlines.
“Dirty Harriet” pretty much sums up the aforementioned phrases, while Rah looks to establish herself as a true leader among MCs as the lone female member of Flipmode Squad.
You think she needed Busta for help? Guess again. Guest appearances are minimal. “Bus-a-Bus” only appears on “Just for You,” along with the rest of Flipmode, and the radio-friendly “Imperial.” He lends his production talent alongside Primo, Pete Rock, DJ Scratch, DJ Shock (Ruff Ryders), Rockwilder and Dave Atkinson, who teamed up to provide unique beats to complement Rah’s hard-edged voice and flow.
Tracks such as “Tight,” “Showdown,” “What They Call M,” and “Do the Ladies Run This,”(featuring Eve and Sonja Blade) display Rah’s aggressive side and consistent braggadocio and “rah-rah” lyrics. But she can flip her style with profound and personal tracks. “Lessons of Today” is a story of her being a little sister with three older brothers who had gone through different life experiences and contributed to her development of becoming a woman.
The only knock on “Dirty Harriet” is that sometimes her flow can become repetitive, but so what? Most rappers, male and female, have only one type of flow and this is only her debut. Rah Digga proves that she doesn’t need to take her clothes off to be heard, and, standing alone as the top female MC, she backs her title as the “Harriet Tubman” of rap.
The Man Who
On the first song on their 1997 debut Good Feeling, Travis singer Fran Healy declared that “All I Want to Do is Rock.” The Man Who, the followup to this debut, sees Travis rocking significantly less. In place of the anthemic sing-alongs of Good Feeling’s “U16 Girls” and “Tied to the ’90s” are Radiohead-esque emotional pop journeys created by the powerful, not-unlike-Thom-Yorke voice of Healy and an evident increased musical confidence on the part of the rest of the band. These elements are especially evident on the longing and poignant first single “Why Does It Always Rain on Me.” With Good Feeling Travis got your attention. With The Man Who they prove why they deserve it – and show the skill that makes Travis, indeed, rock.
Like Water for Chocolate
Common sense is something many of us lack, but with the release of his fourth LP, Like Water for Chocolate, rap artist Common hopes to change that. In no way does this mean that the often-slept-on Chicago MC is selling. This album represents the direction Common has been striving for. Common has finally reached his peak. “The Light”, with that near-perfect Bobby Caldwell sample and lyrics like an ill love poem, makes us all wish we could send it to a significant other. I also dig “The Questions” featuring Mos Def. Monie Love makes a guest appearance, answering those “unCommon” questions. Both songs are perfectly blended by the production team, the Soulquarians, whose illustrious membership includes Ahmir Thompson of the Roots, D’Angelo, keyboardist James Poyser and Jay Dee of the Ummah. With Ahmir Thompson as executive producer and Common as lyrically sharp as ever, Like Water for Chocolate gives people that gritty feel and sound. Pick up the album if only because we should all have Common Sense.
Grade: A +